Monday, 11 November 2013

Let's Talk About Pilling

Someone needs to sit down and have a serious talk with this man. 

His name is Chip Wilson and he is the founder of Lululemon. He failed this week at Communications 101 when he blamed pilling that occurs on Lululemon's newer yoga pants on the wearer. Oh. Yes. He. Did.

Someone needs to talk to him about fabric and this thing called pilling. It is about fabric, not people. It is quite sad really because Lululemon does some wonderful charity work. I'm not endorsing their products since my hips are not made for Lululemon products and if I were in need of yoga pants, I would grab some of that gorgeous fair trade organic cotton knit I found at Mitchell Fabrics and sew myself a pair. But I'm saving that fabulous fabric for Marcy Tilton's shingle dress. And I'm starting to get off topic.  

Pilling is the process that results in the formation of ball of fibre, or pills as they are known, that settle on the surface of fabric. 

Ah, yes. Mr. Wilson was correct this week when he stated, "there has always been pilling." This is true. Mr. Wilson also spoke of Lululemon as "a technology company that strives to push its technology as far as possible" (Hulsman, Yahoo Finance). Also true. Poor Mr. Wilson should had stopped there and left woman's thighs putting pressure on his tech fabric alone. ~sigh~ And then the media storm blew into town this week to cover the blunder. Instead of educating the consumer on Fabrics 101, the media criticized Mr. Wilson for his response to the technical problems with his products. Learning opportunity blown.   

The Lululemon website describes their "signature fabric" used to make their yoga pants as a

four-way stretch Luon™ fabric - Full-On Luon™ is a high-performance fabric that gives major support and coverage with a cottony-soft feel

Pilling does occur in all fabrics. We all know that and have even experienced pilling in our own clothing, right? What some consumers don't know is that with the invention of synthetic fibres came the undesirable pilling syndrome. Lululemon's signature fabric is not a natural fabric, rather it is a synthenic. Pilling should not be a surprise here. It should be expected. This phenomenon has been around since synthetic fabrics hit the stage. It is not new to Lululemon's products.  

Now, in natural fabrics we don't notice pilling as much because the collected fibres tend to fall off the fabric and instead of pills we observe wear and tear over time. Whereas, with synthetic fabrics that are significantly cheaper to produce the trade off is the undesirable pilling syndrome. It is not to say that synthetic or tech fabrics are bad and natural fabrics are superior. Both have their pros and cons.

That said, consumers need to educate themselves since school divisions have been cutting home economics courses for decades now. And some business leaders need to recognize their strengths/weaknesses and hire communication experts. Maybe tell the consumer what the fibre content is made up instead the mysterious "Luon" label. And everyone needs to just calm down and take a pill. (Sorry, bad pun.) Besides, yoga pants are easy to sew if you don't like what you find at the store.

Happy Sewing!  


1 comment:

  1. I thought that the issue was about how thin their new fabric is since they shipped manufacturing out of Canada. I've also seen several comments about size inconsistancies in all the hullaballu that's come out of all this. I was under the impression that it was more a quality issue, and I don't remember hearing about piling. But I might have disregarded that part... :)

    I enjoyed your post though. I haven't had to deal with pilling with my sewing so much, but since taking up knitting, it's a common issues. I've learned that my wool sweaters will pill badly (depending on the yarn), and pill less the tighter the gauge is. Although I'm surprised to hear you say that synthetics pill more than natural fibres - I've noticed the opposite with yarn (so far - I'm still pretty new!). Acrylic and nylon pills much less than wool...but this is much looser gauge than in fabric.

    Anyways, thanks for the interesting post! I really wish there was more information in media beyond the sensationalism. :( This would've been a great learning opportunity. Thanks for taking up some of that slack.


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